In the tradition of Dava Sobel's Longitude comes sailing expert David Barrie's compelling and dramatic tale of invention and discovery—an eloquent elegy to one of the most important navigational instruments ever created, and the daring mariners who used it to explore, conquer, and map the world.
Since its invention in 1759, a mariner's most prized possession has been the sextant. A navigation tool that measures the angle between a celestial object and the horizon, the sextant allowed sailors to pinpoint their exact location at sea.
David Barrie chronicles the sextant's development and shows how it not only saved the lives of navigators in wild and dangerous seas, but played a pivotal role in their ability to map the globe. He synthesizes centuries of seafaring history and the daring sailors who have become legend, including James Cook, Matthew Flinders, Robert Fitz-Roy, Frank Worsley of the Endurance, and Joshua Slocum, the redoubtable old "lunarian" and first single-handed-round-the-world yachtsman. He also recounts his own maiden voyage, and insights gleaned from his experiences as a practiced seaman and navigator.
Full of heroism, danger, and excitement, told with an infectious sense of wonder, Sextant offers a new look at a masterful achievement that changed the course of history.
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About the Author
David Barrie has sailed in many different parts of the world and made many long passages. After serving in the British Diplomatic Service, Barrie worked in the arts and as a law reform campaigner. The great-great-nephew of J. M. Barrie, he is married with two daughters.
Table of Contents
1 Setting Sail 1
2 First Sight 13
3 The Origins of the Sextant 22
4 Bligh's Boat Journey 36
5 Anson's Ordeals 45
6 The Marine Chronometer 57
7 Celestial Timekeeping 72
8 Captain Cook Charts the Pacific 85
9 Bougainville in the South Seas 109
16 La Pérouse Vanishes 122
11 The Travails of George Vancouver 137
12 Flinders-Coasting Australia 157
13 Flinders-Shipwreck and Captivity 177
14 Voyages of the Beagle 193
15 Slocum Circles the World 218
16 Endurance 239
17 "These Are Men" 251
18 Two Landfalls 267
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Tried and true navigation... Unlike the good ole days, sailors now rely primarily on GPS to pinpoint their position at sea, as opposed to more traditional methods like star charting and using the sextant. Thankfully there is a revived interest in traditional boat navigation and ... boatbuilding, which you can learn about in SS Rabl's Boatbuilding in Your Own Backyard. The Sextant reads like an autobiography, novel, and historical account all at once! Dangerous and wonderful adventures of famous sailors and pirates are sprinkled amongst a vivid history of the development and use of the "mariner's most prized possession". Barrie also has a personal story to tell about his experiences with the sextant, which even in our technological age, still has great value! "What could be more wonderful than to join the line of those who have found their way across the seas by the light of sun, moon, and stars?" he asks. By the end of the book he had me and no doubt many readers asking this rhetorical question. This is an entertaining and enlightening read, which has opened my mind to a very respectable tool.
Very informative and well written history of naviagation upon the seas.